- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

The admiral in charge of Pacific fleet aviation wants the Navy to remove urinals from aircraft carriers and replace them with "gender neutral water closets."
A memo endorsed by Vice Adm. John B. Nathman states that "heads" Navy lingo for restrooms should be odor-free and offer one-size-fits-all commodes for male and female sailors aboard the Navy's 11 active carriers.
The change "results in greater flexibility in designating spaces to be used [by] women at sea," says the Sept. 11 memo from Navy Pacific air command to naval headquarters here, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
The Navy is studying whether to replace all porcelain urinals with the "Stainless Sanitary Space System" (S4) for reasons of cleanliness as well as sex equity.
It seems ships experience an "over spray" problem around the urinals that corrodes the surface, says a source familiar with the project. The urinals also are low-flow, which leads to pipe clogging and odors.
"The goal is to make all sanitary spaces gender neutral to facilitate changes in crew composition," the Navy memo says.
"Urinals are major maintenance burden for ships force as a result of calcium buildup, leaks and drain blockage. Urinal fixture, associated traps and piping are main source of offensive odors in heads affecting quality of life for sailors. Current fixture ratio do not support effective mixed gender accommodation management."
The toilet memo is not sitting well with all male officers.
"They won't be happy until we all have to sit down to pee," said one aviator, who asked not to be named. "This is the continuing feminization of the Navy."
The anti-urinal campaign is the latest bid to change shipboard culture since the Clinton administration opened virtually all combat ships to women in 1995. Two years ago, the Atlantic fleet surface ship commander banned nude sleeping, risque sunbathing and women wearing lingerie to bed. Aviators were ordered to clean up radio "call signs" and ready-room language so as not to offend female aviators.
"This message reflects [the command's] desire to have the urinals replaced," said Cmdr. Dave Koontz, a command spokesman. "The toilets are just so much easier to maintain and it does give a ship greater flexibility in future years to support varying number mixes of men and female crews."
He said that if a ship in the future takes on more women, it could simply switch a male head to a female one.
The S4 was designed by Northern Virginia-based Corrosion Engineering Services Inc. (CES). In a demonstration program, the company has overseen installation of a limited number of S4s in two carriers, the Kitty Hawk and Constellation, and two surface ships.
"The whole point of doing this is to reduce maintenance, to improve livability," CES spokeswoman Merritt Allen said. "Sometimes those spaces aren't very nice. They have a lot of moisture. The idea is just to make them nice to use and clean."
The stainless steel commode and fixtures are part of a larger program started by Navy Secretary Richard Danzig to reduce sailor workloads.
"We've gotten really good reports from both Kitty Hawk and Constellation," Mrs. Allen said. "The spaces that used to take two sailors eight hours to clean now are taking one sailor two hours to clean."
The Navy has a goal of assigning roughly 500 women to 5,000-sailor aircraft carriers. Cmdr. Koontz said some ships have attained that number while others have about 300 females.
Of 53,659 Navy women, 11,153 are assigned to ships. Of those, 4,358 are carrier sailors and another 1,281 serve on carrier air wings.
The job of replacing urinals with commodes is daunting. The 316-ship fleet sports more than 3,000 heads. Each S4 costs $187,000 to install and is designed to last at least 10 years.
The Navy said the S4 system may include urinals if commodes cannot be installed.
"The design calls for the removal of as many urinals as possible because urinals are a significant maintenance burden," said Capt. William D. Needham, director of maintenance process improvement at the Naval Sea Systems Command. "Urinals are especially prone to mineral buildup in their drain piping, which can lead to odors and eventual stoppage of the fixture's piping.
"An average sanitary space with six commodes, four showers and seven lavatories takes one sailor approximately four hours to clean," he said. "It is estimated that it takes no more than half that time to clean an S4 compartment."

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